Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Book Review: A Secret Love

This book is the perfect example of how to include a heroine's insistence that the man tell her how he feels into a book, while my last review was definitely the opposite. In A Secret Love, the heroine Alathea is the eldest daugther of an impoverished earl who is the promissor to a promissary note which invests the entire worth of the earldom in a mysterious African mining company. Alathea's father may be impoverished, but society is oblivious to the family's financial troubles thanks largely to Alathea's devotion to managing the estate and the books. At twenty-nine, she is a spinster by society's standards because, shortly after her debut at eighteen, she discovered her father's debt and has since essentially sacrificed her life to helping her family and younger siblings. (I digress for a moment. Laurens is Australian, so does that explain why Alathea's apparently half-siblings were constantly referred to as her step-siblings? That annoyed the crap out of me!) Anyway, when she finds out about the note she is devastated, mainly because her two younger sisters are in London for their debut into society and a demand on the note would ruin the family and the girls' chances at making good matrimonial matches. Her only option is to challenge the validity of the mining company in the courts so as to nulify the note on grounds of fraud. But for that she could need help.

So she enlists the help of her childhood friend/nemesis, Gabriel Cynster, a member of the powerful Cynster family and cousin to the Duke of St. Ives. She and Gabriel do not get along as adults, but she knows him so well that she is able to present her problem to him and ask for his assistance in a way that so intrigues his sense of adventure and curiosity that he cannot deny her. Alathea does this by disguising herself as a mysterious countess who is always veiled when she approaches Gabriel, which also serves to protect her family's pride by not revealing that they are nearly penniless. Gabriel is intrigued, and also attracted to the young, shapely, tall countess. He helps her, but is also determined to seduce her.

What I liked best about this book was the deception Alathea pulled over Gabriel, who thinks he doesn't like Alathea while he is simultaneouslly sexually captivated by the countess. I thought that Laurens handled the reveal very well, and I was glad that she had Gabriel be sensible enough to realize that his feelings for the countess shouldn't go away just because he discovered that she is actually Alathea. And, although Alathea refused to marry Gabriel without hearing that he loved her, it worked in this sense because her hestitency to marry was completely believable. She was almost thirty years old, no one expected her to marry at all. I don't know, I guess it just makes more sense for a heroine to demand the words before she marries the hero, not bitch about it afterwards.

Lindsey's Grade: A-

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